Communication gap between implementers hinder work progress   

Younten Tshedup 

The road is narrow. Holes dug on its one side are big enough for a big car to fall in. This is worrying residents along the Zamdo Lam in Changzamtog, Thimphu. It is a busy road. On Sunday, a bolero pickup truck fell into one of the pits dug to install hume pipes. No casualties were reported.

The incident however, has left many concerned about the safety measures put in place at the construction site. More than two weeks ago, road widening and installation of underground cable duct and hume pipes began in the area.

Without proper safety signage, the stretch is accident-prone. “There are no reflectors or any cautionary signs installed at the site. At night without street-lighting, you don’t see the holes which makes it very risky to drive along this stretch,” said a driver.

The pace of work has also left many questioning authorities. “Nothing has happened after they dug several large holes in front of our houses,” said a resident. “We don’t see them working at all. These holes are just creating inconvenience for us and it’s risky for people, especially children living nearby.”

Shopkeepers in the area are also affected by the progress of the work. “There are no parking spaces. We are losing customers,” said a shopkeeper. “We were barely getting back from the lockdown damages when this happened.”

The shopkeeper said that three of her customers were penalised for parking on the other side of the road. “People are not allowed to park even for a few minutes. It is almost like harassment as there are no places nearby to park the vehicle.”

The work is contracted out to Passang Construction Pvt. Ltd. Manager of the firm, Pema Selden said that the inconvenience caused was not only to the commuters and residents including the shopkeepers but also to the company.

She said that given the high traffic frequency along the stretch, engaging machines and working during the day was not possible. “We can only work during the night. We work overtime from 6pm till 1am every day.”

She said that the project had requested if the stretch could be closed for traffic to speed up work. Their appeal was declined by the thromde office and traffic police.

“The project is already delayed because of the pandemic and lockdown. Delaying it further would only hamper us,” she said. “We also want to complete the work as soon as possible but there are several challenges.”

The manager said that Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) has not yet removed their electric poles. “Until the poles are removed, we cannot continue our work. And there are several manholes in the area, which if damaged while digging would lead to another problem.”

She said that shortage of skilled labourers was another major challenge. “Bhutanese labourers cannot make the chambers and carry out shuttering works. We’ve to bring in Indian labourers from other sites at night to do the work.”

She also blamed residents for frequently damaging the danger tape signage put near the holes. “Every day we have to put new tapes in the area. And also, there are some drivers who threaten our workers for working in the area.”

Thromde officials said that the electric poles would soon be removed and that they were awaiting response from BPC to temporarily shift their connection. On the closure of the road to traffic, officials said that the traffic did not allow it as it would cause more inconvenience to the public.

Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that he was not aware of these issues. “Nobody has reported this to me. But if such are the issues, it should be brought to my engineers’ notice and they should then tell me. I can definitely talk to the traffic police and find a way out.”

He said that the lockdown had hampered the work process as many of the Indian labourers had returned home. “People have to bear with the little inconvenience for now. The future will be good.”